Scotland loses one third of bank branches in eight years

Scotland has lost over a third of its bank branches in the past eight years, a report has revealed, with Edinburgh the hardest-hit area of the country.

The RBS branch on John Street in Penicuik, which has been shut
The RBS branch on John Street in Penicuik, which has been shut

An investigation by consumer watchdog Which? found that there were 610 fewer banks or building societies across Scotland in 2018 compared with 2010 - slashing the total number of branches from 1,625 to 1,015.

Experts warned that the closures could see communities denied access tocash - which they said could impact people who did not use digital banking services and also create a crisi if online and card-based banking systems were to fail.

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Royal Bank of Scotland closed the greatest number of branches since 2015, according to separate data collated by Which?, shutting 158 of the 399 banks that have disappeared.

It is followed by Bank of Scotland, which closed 86, Clydesdale, which shut 59 and Santander and TSB which closed 38 and 35 respectively.

Overall, Edinburgh South West was hardest hit with a massive 135 closures, cutting the network to just 30 remaining branches in 2018. This is followed by Glasgow Central, which lost 70, Edinburgh North & Leith, 65 and Edinburgh East, 45.

Meanwhile, Angus, Dundee West, Falkirk and Paisley & Renfrewshire North all lost 15 branches.

Gareth Shaw, Which? head of Money, said: “These ongoing closures could have a huge impact on communities across Scotland, stripping millions of people reliant on cash of their ability to go about their daily lives.

“Cash is also a vital backup when digital systems fail – so the UK Government must appoint a regulator to oversee these changes and ensure no-one is shut out from paying for local goods and services.”

Which? recently revealed that UK banks were hit by 302 IT shutdowns in the last nine months of 2018 - more than one major IT or security failure every day that prevents customers from making payments.

While digital payments are rising, cash is still a necessity for more than 25 million people across the UK. A previous Which? survey found that three quarters of people in Scotland use cash frequently, while just four percent said they rarely use this payment method.

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland said: “Bank branches and free to use cash machines have been disappearing from communities across Scotland at an alarming rate and have a disproportionate impact on the lives of older people who use cash as a means of budgeting and rely on the face to face service offered on the High Street.

“The extraordinary push by the banks to digital services leaves behind the 500,000 people in Scotland over the age of 60 who do not use the internet. That’s the equivalent of the population of our capital city and is a staggering number of people to disenfranchise.”